Could it be that people are dying because, for the last 50 years, there has been an enormous effort to brainwash people into believing that Vitamin C is worthless and that anyone touting it is a crank or a quack? (Certainly, that is what I have come to believe – but then I am one of the cranks). To be educated to avoid the one thing that might save us, wouldn’t that be a crazy state of affairs?
It is certainly easy to roll the intellectual muscles and say “There is no proof that it works”. What they don’t tell you is that proving something is an expensive game. Hundreds of millions goes into proving the drugs that are on the market ‘work’ – even the drugs that have been subsequently withdrawn from the market because they make people suicidal or cause thalidomide.
And while you’d think proving Vitamin C works should be easy to do. It’s not. First someone has to do it – and Vitamin C is so unpopular with the science crowd (aided and abetted by the big pharma crowd) that it would be career suicide to attempt it. Linus Pauling tried. He was a big man in the scientific world – until then. He couldn’t get funding for trials. He couldn’t get authorisation (yes, to prove something you need authorisation). And then he was effectively sidelined and shuffled off into the margins. So much so that the man that James Watson (co-discoverer of the structure of DNA) called a Nobelist among Nobelists – who he rated intellectually as on the par with Newton and Einstein – didn’t even make the list of top one hundred great scientists of the 20th Century, as decided by Time magazine.
But while it is impossible to prove that it works, it is very easy to ‘demonstrate’ that it doesn’t work. You just don’t use enough of it for long enough. Most trials of Vitamin C use only about 500 mgs a day. For comparison I take 5-6,000 mgs a day (one teaspoon of powder) normally but have upped this to 10-12,000 during this Coronavirus scare. That is I take two teaspoons of powder a day. But then, you must remember, I’m a crank.
So, why – if the government is recommending only 50-70 mgs a day – am I taking so much? For me the clincher is this: all but a very few mammals make their own Vitamin C in their livers – they have special enzymes that do this. Or rather, it is more accurate to say they make ascorbic acid (which is what Vitamin C is). For them Vitamin C is not a vitamin as they make it themselves (vitamins are vital chemicals that the body needs and yet must be got from external sources). The interesting question is how much they make. I use the goat as a reasonable comparison – it’s about the same size and weight as a small human being. A goat on a good day will make about 13 grams a day – but on a bad day (it’s cold, injured, under the weather) it will make upwards of 100 grams. That suggests that Vitamin C is needed to help the body cope with physical stresses. What happens with the goat happens right across the spectrum of mammalian life with, as I say, a few exceptions. We are one of those exceptions – along with the other primates and, very interestingly, the guinea pig ( I have asked many people why the archetypal experimental animal is referred to as a ‘guinea pig’ when we use far more rats, mice and rabbits in animal experiments – no-one knows).
So maybe we have evolved to not need it. But that can’t be the answer as we get scurvy if we don’t get it (and scurvy results in the body literally breaking apart at the seams – which gives a clue to one of Vitamin C’s functions. It is necessary for strong cell walls. Strong cell walls impede viruses). So, why then? The best guess is that we (or rather one of our ancestral forms) suffered a devastating genetic disease that killed the enzymes that make Vitamin C in the liver. Fortunately for us we (or rather the ancestors) were able to replace this with Vitamin C from the natural environment – in leaves and so on. So we were able to survive.
That for me is the convincing argument. And for me it has done what it says on the tin: I have had two flus which I got rid of overnight by taking handfuls of 1,000 mg capsules every couple of hours. Perhaps you didn’t really have the flu? You might say. All I can tell you is that it felt like the flu and the next time I have the same thing happen to me I will do the same. I know from my experience that it works. You however have to take this on trust that I’m not lying to you. Up to you. The only way to experience the benefits of Vitamin C is to take it.
So what are Vitamin C’s functions in the body? There isn’t time to enumerate all that it does. It is a co-enzyme in something like 30,000 chemical reactions that are taking place in the body everyday. It is also directly anti-bacterial, anti-viral and is a strong anti-histamine. But for the purposes of this short article all you need to know is that the immune system is much stronger with it than without it.
But what about overdosing? The simple answer to that is that you can’t. There is no amount of Vitamin C that is toxic to the body (another clue that we need it and lots of it). If you take in more than the body can handle you get a bowel movement. The body simply dumps it. The amount you need to take in to get this effect is a sign of how much Vitamin C your body is using or can use at that moment. A rough guide is that some people get a big reaction at a low level (very healthy) but others have to take in 20-30 grams or more (not so good – your body is clearly fighting something). The more the body is fighting the more Vitamin C you should take.
So there are some facts about Vitamin C. You may say “It’s not proven”. And I will have to agree with you. But there are a lot of signposts. When you are driving along and you see a sign saying “Bishop’s Fart – 5 miles” and you want to go to the pretty village of Bishop’s Fart, you don’t say “There’s no proof it’s that way and there’s no proof it is 5 miles away. So I’m not going down that road.” When a friend tells you a restaurant is good. You don’t say “I’m not going to that restaurant because there is no proof that it’s good – there’s just anecdotal evidence and we know how suspect that can be.” A lot of decisions require you to accept the information you’re given and to try it out for yourself. The decision to take lots of Vitamin C as a precautionary measure to alleviate and possibly cure an infection – such as Covid-19 – is one of those kinds of decision.